8 November 2019

11,000 scientists call for population action to prevent catastrophic climate impacts

This week marked the publication of the Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency – a paper signed by more than 11,000 scientists from around the world warning of “untold human suffering” unless governments take urgent action to tackle the climate crisis, including ending and reversing population growth.

Person sitting on cracked soil

The drivers

The statement, which received extensive media coverage, highlights the significant climate impacts of the interrelated increases in human populations, meat and fossil fuel consumption, deforestation, air travel, and emissions.

The authors call for six “bold and drastic transformations” relating to energy, food, pollution, nature, economy and human population to avert the worst effects of climate change. The paper states:

“The world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced—within a framework that ensures social integrity.”

To achieve this, the authors propose “proven and effective policies that strengthen human rights while lowering fertility rates”, including removing barriers to family planning and achieving full gender equity, especially relating to education opportunities for girls.

Previous warnings

This is not the first Scientists’ Warning calling for action on population. The World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity of November 2017, endorsed by more than 20,000 scientists, also identified “continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats” and listed necessary and globally beneficial policy measures to reduce fertility.

Population Matters' Director, Robin Maynard, said:

“On the eve of the UN’s landmark International Conference on Population and Development in Nairobi (12 -14 November), it is indeed time, as the scientists state, ‘to tell it like it is': alongside excessive consumption, ongoing human population growth is driving that catastrophic threat.

Population Matters has long been ‘telling it like it is’, promoting positive, voluntary means for ending population growth, through empowering women, tackling poverty and ensuring everyone can use modern contraception. Not least, we have consistently highlighted that choosing to have smaller families in the developed world, where each one of us is responsible for a disproportionate volume of emissions, will take the heat off our planet, and help ensure our children’s future.”